Oscars Postpone Ceremony, Extend Eligibility Period Due To COVID-19

The Oscar eligibility requirements already have been changed to allow films without a theatrical release to compete this year.

The next Oscars ceremony will be held in April instead of February, the latest ripple effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the entertainment industry as the pandemic shows few signs of abating even as many states are easing quarantine restrictions and allowing some businesses to reopen.

The ceremony, typically held in late February, at one time seemed set to go on as planned. But as the pandemic continues to jeopardize long-term plans and major events, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, announced Monday that it would postpone the 2021 ceremony from its scheduled date of Feb. 28. The ceremony will now take place April 25, 2021.

The Academy is also extending the eligibility period for movies past Dec. 31, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021. It’s unclear what effect this will have, given that traditionally, many of the films that end up getting Oscar nominations tend to come out toward the end of the year anyway.

“Our hope, in extending the eligibility period and our Awards date, is to provide the flexibility filmmakers need to finish and release their films without being penalized for something beyond anyone’s control,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement Monday.

The Academy had already changed this year’s Oscars eligibility requirements to temporarily allow movies without a theatrical release to compete — a step they’ve long resisted in previous years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down movie theaters throughout much of the world, the vast majority of movies have been released directly on streaming platforms or as on-demand rentals/purchases for moviegoers to watch at home.

Hollywood executives have been grappling with how to map out the rest of the year’s movie releases, as public health experts have warned that movie theaters and other large-scale gathering places will likely remain unsafe for the foreseeable future. Even if movie theaters reopen, it’s likely many moviegoers may not feel safe returning right away.

Industry officials initially seemed to be pinning their hopes on July, lining up major releases like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake.

But on Friday, Warner Bros. postponed the release of “Tenet” by two weeks, to July 31, and moved “Wonder Woman: 1984” from August to October.

Meanwhile, officials in California allowed film and television production to resume Friday, as part of the state’s reopening process. But COVID-19 cases in the state have been ticking upward, and many productions are still unsure how to proceed safely.

As for the entertainment industry’s other major awards shows, this year’s Tonys, normally held in June, were postponed indefinitely, since all Broadway shows went dark in March.

Television’s biggest night, the Emmys, is still scheduled for Sept. 20. But as that date approaches, it seems increasingly likely that the ceremony will be held remotely.

The Academy, which has been experimenting with changes to the Oscars’ date and format amid years of flagging ratings for the show, stressed Monday that the “exceptional changes” were purely due to the COVID-19 crisis, and “the intent going forward is to ultimately return to awarding excellence for films released in the January-December calendar year.” Plans for the 2022 Oscars will be announced at a later date.

In addition to shifting the schedule for the awards, the Academy also pushed the opening date for its long-awaited museum in Los Angeles, from Dec. 14 to April 30.

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